Friday, December 31, 2010

Know Your Enemy: USF



Thursday, December 30, 2010

Villanueva has limited respect for Garnett

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ray Allen on victory over the Pacers

<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-us&brand=foxsports&playlist=videoByUuids:uuids:481e7e94-cf5b-4d47-b461-b3fb5fc7da58&showPlaylist=true&from=IV2_en-us_foxsports_videosearch&fg=RAMP" target="_new" title="Celtics rally past Pacers">Video: Celtics rally past Pacers</a>

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Barometer Test


UConn was walking into a buzz saw. They are loaded with young freshmen that were playing their first true road game of the year and they looked scared, differing to Walker on almost every possession. Every offensive set was around the perimeter and credit goes to the Panthers for sealing the lanes and keeping UConn from drawing the defense in. Every fifty-fifty ball went Pittsburgh’s way and they owned the painted area. Anything Pittsburgh wanted offensively they got with open jumpers on almost every trip. The lazy pressure defense on makes created little in turnovers and gave up easy baskets. With nothing but the three pointer as a weapon for UConn to use, they struggled to keep up against a superior balanced attack.

Walker was the entire offense. He struggled early on, missing nine shots in the first half, but without anyone else stepping up, he continued to look for his shot. During one stretch in the second half, he nailed a jumper, hit two three-pointers, and then sank a lay-up bringing UConn as close as they would get in the game but the defense let them down. He is amazing though, especially since everyone is gunning to stop him and he is still scoring. He just needs some help.

And it didn’t come from Oriakhi. He struggled mightily in his first real test of the year. He had a nice post move where he made the shot and was fouled, but other then that he didn’t find ways to get the ball in the post. He also struggled to block out and rebound. Pittsburgh feasted on balls five feet and in. Alex did do a good job of getting to the line and scoring, but this team needed his presence in the paint and he didn’t provide that.

The backcourt did an adequate job, though most of the offense was around the perimeter. Napier hit a few three pointers, but he needs to find ways of getting to the line more and not settle for the outside shot so much. He has Walker type of speed and needs to use it. Lamb had a good first half with a pretty steal and flush, but he struggled defensively and found himself trailing his man around Pittsburgh’s numerous motion offense and multiple picks sets. Beverly struggled and ended his night with one steal and two turnovers. He seems lost out there.

The wings looked ineffective. Smith couldn’t get anything going offensively and couldn’t defend without fouling. This team needs him to contribute. Coombs-McDaniel took a bad shot and didn’t do anything after that. Giffey also had problems. He passed an open shot and dribbled the ball, which gets him into problems. He needs to be a spot up shooter and have a quick release when the ball gets in his hands.

Okwandu didn’t have that bad of a night. He had a offensive rebound, put-backs, a hustle tie-up, block and save. Anything he gives this team offensively is a bonus. He just needs to defend the post better and not foul. Olander showed a nice jumper, but he also fouled on a three point attempt and didn’t block out on a free throw. He needs to play more in control. Wolf had an offensive rebound but didn’t play much to make a difference.

It was ugly and brings up questions that this team thought it had answered. Who is going to help Kemba offensively and can they rebound? They are a three point shooting team now and if it isn’t falling, then they are going to be in tight ballgames or get blown out of the water. It really was the defense that let them down in this one. They just couldn’t get the stops to maintain a run. That is probably what is most disappointing to Calhoun about this loss. And like the weather outside this barometer test fell well short.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Curtis Kelly gets suspended

<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-us&brand=foxsports&playlist=videoByUuids:uuids:abb7f03f-8111-497b-baa6-a94af5a885bf&showPlaylist=true&from=IV2_en-us_foxsports_videosearch&fg=RAMP" target="_new" title="Goodman: Take a seat">Video: Goodman: Take a seat</a>

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Collective Effort


After the dismal end to the Copper State game, UConn was able to put together a total team effort on both ends of the floor against Harvard. The offense was evenly distributed, shots were falling, and players that weren’t contributing before found ways to score. They pounded the glass and had two or three men at all times attacking the offensive glass. The help defense was much better throughout the whole game and the big men clogged up the driving lanes and the perimeter defenders closed out on the outside shooters.

While Kemba isn’t scoring like he has, not forcing the offense and becoming confident with the freshmen is going to payoff greater for this team more so then if he is going off for thirty a night. Walker is such a fluid scorer and his jumper was falling early. He is still doing too much dribbling in the half court sets, but that is nitpicking an otherwise great performance.

Oriakhi held his own on the boards and was more assertive with his back to the basket which is what this team needs from him. He was a bit lazy with the ball around the rim and needs to finish plays off with authority rather then trying to tip the ball in but he did a good job at the line and played solid defense, though he should be dominating these types of games.

The guards all did a much better job and are showing better effectiveness in the half court sets. Napier had a much more productive output in this game. He took some bad three pointers but he made them and he was able to get steals and create fast break opportunities, none better then the one where he hit Walker in transition for a three. Lamb had a solid first half, showing the baseline jumper, offensive rebounding, the 3-ball, and a sweet floater, but he has had trouble at being effective in both halves. Beverly had a tough night and had a couple of turnovers without making any positive plays.

The front court is becoming an effective core and are doing a much better job on the boards. Olander had his best game of the year and showed the ability to hit that 15-footer that Jeff Adrien had down pat. He also did a good job on the boards, but also was caught in no man’s land defensively a couple of times and had Calhoun yelling at him on the bench. Smith was able to get to the line and find points there. He finally got an outside shot to fall for him, but like Lamb, he disappeared in the second half. Coombs-McDaniel struggled for most of the night. He did post his man up and was fouled, making both shots, but his confidence in his jumper is at an all time low and he isn’t driving to the basket. Giffey struggled too. Dribbling is not his strong suit and he needs to find ways to become a spot up jumper and go right into his shot as soon as he gets the ball.

The transformation of Okwandu in the past two games has been remarkable. He is finding ways to score around the rim, playing excellent help defense and blocking shots. It is great to see. Wolf has been just as effective in his limited minutes and showed a soft shot from a 15-footer and from the line. He is also a great position rebounder which will help this team out in league play.

This was exactly the type of game that UConn needed after the ending of the Copper State game. It was a confidence builder for everyone on the team and they will need it for their first true road test of the year. It will be interesting to see how the freshmen deal in that type of environment and against an elite opponent. For now, this team is gelling and players are beginning to settle into their roles. It is sure is fun to watch, especially when they’re winning.

 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Coppin Robbers


It was a long layoff and the rust was evident early on. Jumpers were clanking and lay-ups were rolling off the rim, but UConn used their overpowering size and strength to dominate the boards and keep themselves in the ballgame early until some of the jumpers began to fall. The defense was there for most of the night. Except for the three-ball, which Coppin State made their fair share of lucky ones, UConn kept Coppin State out of the lane until the very end of the ballgame. They just didn’t put this team away and let them back into the game with sloppy offense and poor rebounding down the stretch. It left a sour taste on an otherwise good team victory.

Walker didn’t have a great game. He forced the offense a couple of times and ended up with off balance and contested shots in the lane. The offense is so dependent on him that if he isn’t scoring then the offense grinds to a halt. Even though it was an off night, he did hit the three-ball and had a highlight steal and dunk. This team needs someone to step up and become a consistent second scorer. You can almost mirror this teams runs to when he is scoring the basketball which isn't the best sign.

Oriakhi also had a tough night. He did well on the boards, but couldn’t finish plays around the rim. He is still struggling at the line and isn’t getting a good arch on the ball. He also isn’t demanding the ball in the post. He has a nice post game, shown by a nice spin and lay-up with a foul, but this team needs more. Against this team, he should be dominating.

Napier failed to produce any type of offense, but he didn’t take any horrible threes that had plagued him in previous games. He did have a beautiful no-look pass to Walker, but his lack of offense contributed to Coppin State climbing back into the game. Lamb was solid and looks to be the second scorer on the team. He battled hard on the boards and hit a few jumpers. He just needs to be that type of player for both halves. He did much of his damage, especially on the boards, in the first half, but this type of growing pains are expected from a freshman. Beverly didn’t have much of an impact on the game other then a scoop shot and a rebound. He did provide some ball handling in a three guard lineup. He gave up some wide open jumpers for contested shots.

It was a awful night for the wings. Smith had a tough game. His shot was all over the place and nothing was dropping for him. It was good to see him on the boards and using his athletic frame in getting some second chance opportunities, but he forced some jumpers instead of getting to the line by attacking the rim. Coombs-McDaniel’s shot is just not falling and unlike other games, he didn’t take it to the rim. He ended up clanking all of his jumpers. He is on a major shooting slump. Giffey also bricked everything and decided to use the glass on his only jumper. He played solid defense and didn't force anything.

Okwandu had his best game of the year and might be feeling the heat from the newly arrived Wolf. The biggest difference for him is that he finished plays off with authority. He was all over the place, dishing the ball, blocking shots, and showing a sweet hook shot. He will need to put this type of effort in back-to-back games though and in conference play too. Olander played well in the first half. He rebounded much better and made a nice spin move, but he isn’t a passer, making several poor decisions. He was more energetic and showed a presence in the paint area. Wolf made the most of his limited minutes, making two lay-ups and missing two more. He will add much need depth and doesn’t look like he will need a lot of time to get adjusted to this team.

It wasn’t the dominating performance that they wanted, but coming off an extended break, they needed this type of game to shake off the rust. This is still a very young team that is dependent on one player and is susceptible to a seesaw effort that was displayed tonight. It is a great motivation for Calhoun to use in practice. While effort like this tonight against any Big East team will get you beat, it is a teachable game while getting a win, which isn't that bad at all. Just as long as they learn from it.

 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ray Allen on playing the Knicks

Enosch Wolf Game

Tilton vs. Wilbraham & Monson
Enosch Wolf (Blue No. 54)



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Andre Drummond: 2010 National Prep Showcase

Princeton Day vs. St. Thomas More
Andre Drummond (No. 20)




Monday, December 13, 2010

Making the Grade


Kemba Walker: A+. What more can you ask from a player? He is an excellent leader, a scoring machine, has developed a consistent jumper, plays stellar defense, knocks down his free throws, and does everything this team needs. He has gone far and beyond what anyone expected from him and he is determined to take this team to the Big Dance in his final year at UConn.

Oriakhi: A-.
He has been a solid contributor in the paint and the team's best rebounder. While he still needs to develop a post game and show that he can dominate the boards against smaller teams, he has stepped his game up dramatically from last year. He finishes plays around the rim and gets to the line. The sky is the limit to where he wants his game to go.

Napier: B.
He has a Jekyll and Hyde side to his game. At times he can break down a defense with his speed, play in your shirt defense for steals and knock down shots, but then he can take threes that aren’t in the flow of the offense, let his defender right by him, and make a sloppy pass in traffic. There is no doubt that he is the future of this team though and he is a much needed spurt off the bench.

Giffey: B.
Out of all the freshmen, Giffey has the best defense. Like his offense, it isn’t flashy. He uses his length and foot speed to stay in front of his man and he has a nice stroke when he can get the ball on the wing and have some space. He greatest weakness is his dribbling and he needs to do a better job on the boards, but he has been a pleasant surprise.

Smith. B-. The talent is evident when Smith is on the floor. He can block shots and has a nice stroke from deep, but he hasn’t found the consistency yet. By the end of the year though, he will be a key part to what this team does offensively.

Lamb C+.
It has taken some time for Lamb to show his skills, but in the last several games, he has been able to contribute on both ends. His role is still undetermined though. He doesn’t look fluid when dribbling the ball and doesn’t have a tremendous first step, but he has a nice stroke and needs to find ways to get his shooting hand open.

Coombs-McDaniel: C. This was the year for Coombs-McDaniel to step up and he has struggled out of the gate. His jumper isn’t falling, but unlike last year, he is taking the ball to the rim and finishing plays. He has also been hitting the boards better lately. He needs to remain confident and also knock down his free throws, which he hasn’t been able to do.

Beverly: C. Coming off of hip surgery in which he barely practiced, it was evident that he was rusty. He isn’t a flashy player, but he remains a steady ball handler and is able to set up the half court offense. He has been able to get some offense going in the last couple of games, but that isn’t what this team needs from him. They need someone to help take over the point in place of Napier and he has done that.

Olander: C-.
Coming into the season, Olander was the most impressive freshman, but he has struggled to find his role on the court. He hasn’t found a way to rebound consistently and his much talked about post game has yet to flourish, but that is asking a lot for a freshman. There is no doubt that he plays with energy but it hasn’t lead to production yet. He will eventually find his comfort zone and contribute more.

Okwandu: D.
With Majok leaving, Okwandu had a golden opportunity to seize minutes, but that just hasn’t happened. He has at times been a steady defender, but he is a major liability on the offensive end and doesn’t hit the boards. He’ll find his way into ballgames when others ahead of him are in foul trouble, but this team needs more out of him then what he is giving.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Unfair Fight


UConn versus Farleigh Dickinson wasn't a fair fight, but the rust was evident early on and kept it close. UConn settled for jumpers instead of finding seams in the zone and their shots weren’t dropping. The ball movement was much better and the offensive load was distributed more evenly. The defense played extremely well and the help rotated over quicker and was able to block a ton of shots. A bad sign though, was that they were out rebounded in the first half, but did a much better job of hitting the glass in the second half as they pulled away. UConn just had to much depth, size and talent and wore down Fairleigh.

Walker wasn’t his dominating self. His jumper wasn’t dropping as efficiently as it has, but he didn’t force anything. His defense was much better and didn’t let his man by him. He’s been able to play a more suffocating defense without fouling and got is getting more steals. He deferred to his teammates and they came through for him this time. It is important for him to have trust in them to knock down shots, especially when they get into conference play.

Oriakhi didn’t have a monster offensive game. His jumper wasn’t there but was able to get the rim a couple of times. There were times when he was out of position in the first half to make plays and had to pass the ball out of the post. He needs to establish a post position and demand the ball more then make a quick move before the defense settles. He did do a great job in the second half on the boards, especially on the offensive end.

Napier again was the spark plug off the bench that helped UConn pull away from Farleigh. He still is making some freshmen mistakes in missing a dunk, gambling on defense, and taking tough shots that aren’t in the flow of the offense, but there is no doubt that he is the second best guard on the team. Lamb had a solid night too. He had a couple of threes, a slick reverse lay-up and a beautiful steal that set up a power slam. Hopefully this is a confidence builder for him. Beverly had a much bigger impact then he had in the prior games. He battled on the boards, had a couple of blocks, drilled a 3-ball, and handled the point well.

Giffey struggled early on missing his first three shots from deep and had a turnover, but in the second half he nailed a shot from deep and got to the line. He is still a streaky shooter and needs to find ways to contribute more on the boards. Smith had a huge impact on the game. He was all over the boards, got to the line, and had several dunks. This team is much more efficient when he is able to help out on the boards and attack the rim. Coombs-McDaniel needs to take the ball to the rim. His outside shot is just not dropping and he is much more effective when he attacks. He also is missing his free throws. He has a nice stroke and has been a good free throw shooter in the past. It is just a confidence issue.

Olander didn’t do anything in the first half, In the second, he was able to get to the offensive glass and knock down a 15-footer. Okwandu remains an enigma as a player. He looks uncomfortable with the ball in his hands and isn’t rebounding. These two players need to find ways to contribute or they’ll see their minutes drop in league play.

It took awhile for the offense to get going but when it did it turned into an all around team effort. Lamb, Smith, and Napier all helped out and Walker didn’t need to put up a huge amount of attempts. This will pay dividends when they get into conference play. The freshmen are going to need to find ways to get involved. Right now it is through the three ball and on the break, but as they get more comfortable with each other and the offense, they’ll be able to use set plays more effectively. But for the now this team will live and die by the three, something unfamiliar to UConn fans.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Simply Amazing


It truly was a tale of two halves. In the first, they continued their poor play. They allowed Maryland-Baltimore County to drive into the lane and draw the help, but no one rotated over to help out the helper. That left a wide open player to clean up the mess and this happened over and over and over again. UConn also struggled in rebounding and were going after rebounds with only one arm, resulting in tip balls that mostly went to MBC. In the second half they stopped the dribble penetration and did a much better job of limiting shots to only one and done. UConn also got help from the freshmen. These types of games are expected from such a young team and the only thing that is making some of these games victories instead of nail biting losses is a super star.

A triple double? Are you kidding me? What more can you ask from a player? Walker was everywhere, snagging rebounds, finding the open man, and doing what he always does-score. It is fun to see him do his thing. His jumper has turned into a weapon, especially from mid-range. He has an ability to hit shots while in motion and there is no aspect to his game that hasn’t stepped up.

Oriakhi had a tough first half and had a hard time of securing boards. He did control the paint with blocks, but they were sent out of bounds instead of turning into fast breaks. In the second half he found ways to get to the rim and showed an impressive jumper but he wasn’t the rebounding force this team needs. He should be dominating the boards with monster numbers against teams like this.

The back court performed well, especially in the second half and was a key reason to why UConn pulled away. Napier took a nice fall on an outside shot and had to get bandaged up early on. He didn’t have the impact on the game other then a three pointer and a few free throws. Lamb exploded in this game. He rebounded like a beast, hit the outside shot, dunked, had a pretty curl jumper, and had some blocks. His game looks so effortless but then there are games when he disappears. Beverly had a well rounded game. He rebounded, sank his free throws, hit a three pointer, and had a lay-up. It is good to see him impact the game in a positive way.

The wings all contributed and played up to their potential. Coombs-McDaniel had his best game of the year. He had a stretch in the first half where he clanked two free throws and it looked like he was going to have a poor night, but then he had a beautiful dribble drive score and a three pointer in back to back plays. From there he had another three and driving score. He did clank all his free throws and needs to find his rhythm there. Didn’t he sink a hundred in a row once? Giffey struggled in the first half having a pair of travel calls and not rebounding well, but in the second half he turned into his idol, Ray Allen. He sank three 3-balls and buried MCB. Smith had an overall good game. He rebounded, hit the outside shot, blocked shots, stole the ball, and made his free throws. He did play some bad defense that had Calhoun call a timeout and scream in his direction.

Okwandu played his usual limited minutes and had a line drive hook shot that miraculously went in. He also had a couple of boards and a block. Olander had a tough game. He was getting beat on the boards early on and had a horrible pass that lead to a turnover. In the second half he had a couple of offensive boards and a rebound, but wasn’t effective. He shows a lot of effort out there and eventually that will lead to production but right now he isn’t in position to make those plays.

Overall this was a good bounce back game for many of the role players. They all found ways to contribute offensively. They just need to secure the defensive boards and limit dribble penetration. It is going to be a growing process, but as long as they have Walker, they have that cushion to learn and still win ballgames. This is truly a special season to see a player like Walker do his thing. He makes it seem so effortless but when the clock hits zeros, he is sitting there on the sidelines with a triple double. Simply Amazing.

 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Month in Review: November 2010


No one knew what to expect from this team as it headed into November. There were plenty of questions from the freshmen, sophomores, to Kemba Walker’s ability to shoulder the offensive load and they answered most of them, rattling off some impressive wins against Michigan State and Kentucky. The defense was impressive right from the get go. The freshmen all bought into Calhoun’s man-to-man and pressure defense. There are still some glaring weaknesses, starting with rebounding. While Oriakhi is doing his part, others are struggling in helping out. Offensively it has been hit or miss, literally. Against Michigan State and Kentucky, the ball passed around and the half court offense looked fluid, but then there were games where they dribbled the shot clock down then took a horrible shot or it turned into the watch Kemba do his thing show.

Walker was nothing short of amazing. He has been able to find his range this season and it has opened everything up for him. He has also developed a spin move off the dribble for a pretty jumper. The blazing speed has always been there, but he is playing under control. To put it simply, he has the total package. His superior play has allowed the freshmen to wean their way into the game, but they will eventually need to step up and contribute more.

Oriakhi’s improvement has been overshadowed by Walker’s but it is still impressive. He is rebounding much better and is finishing strong around the rim. He still hasn’t developed a consistent post move or elbow jumper yet, but he is giving what this team needs now, a presence down low. Another thing that he needs to improve on is his free throws. He has a nice form but isn’t able to hit two in a row for some reason.

Napier has been the most impressive freshman. He has tremendous ability with the dribble, though he carries a lot, and he can knock down the jumper. What is most impressive is that he isn’t afraid to make a play, even if they are bad shots. He has given Walker the ability to play without the ball and it has helped the team greatly. His defense can be smothering but he also gambles and puts a lot of pressure on the back side of the defense.

Giffey has also been a surprise. He plays the best defense of the freshmen. He doesn’t gamble like Napier, and has the length to bother shots. He isn't that athletic but he moves his feet well. Though he is a streaky shooter, he has shown the ability to knock down shots and get to the rim. His big weakness now is dribbling. He gets in trouble if he dribbles four or more times.

Smith is finding his role. He can block shots and knock down jumpers but he is struggling in finding ways to get open. It will take some time for him to get used to when and where to take shots, but he has the talent to make a major contribution in the upcoming months. Coombs-McDaniel has been as inconsistent as the freshmen. He still hasn't had a good outside shooting game yet, but he has been able to get to the rim more. He needs to rebound better.

Beverly is still getting over his hip surgery which sidelined him for the off season. He should show better contributions now that he has shaken off some of the rust off, but the emergence of Napier has stolen some of his minutes. Donnell has handled the point well, but this team will need him to knock down shots and contribute more offensively in the future. Lamb is still trying to find out where he fits. He looks uncomfortable with the dribble in traffic and hasn’t shown much on the offensive end of the floor. For him to be an effective guard, he is going to have take the ball to the basket.

Olander has contributed more then expected. He has a tough minded attitude and isn’t afraid to mix it up inside. He is going to be a really good player when he adds the extra muscle to his frame. He already has a better post game then Oriakhi and isn’t afraid to show his range. He just needs consistency. Okwandu has shown some good and bad in his limited play. He blocks shots and hustles, but also is careless with the ball and is a liability on the offensive end. He hasn’t earned Calhoun’s trust yet and barely makes the court in the second half.

Heading into December, this team has to figure out how to get Smith, Lamb, Coombs-McDaniel, and Giffey involved more offensively and at the rebounding end. They started off hot and set themselves up for a nice season, but they need to build off this early momentum. They have the best player in the country, but that hasn’t always added up to a great season for many teams. It takes a well rounded squad to make noise, especially in the Big East. But if they can gel, it could become something very special.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Deflated


All the signs were there for a major let down. Over hype from three great victories, Walker garnering praise from every media outlet for his superb play, and a crisp new top ten ranking, and this team came out flat, expecting shear talent to decide the outcome. But this team still has some striking weaknesses. There is no one other then Oriakhi that is willing or able to secure rebounds from ten feet and in. The defense was there for much of the night, though the full court pressure didn’t cause any turnovers and instead gave up some easy points at the other end. But it was the offense that sputtered. Nothing seemed to be dropping from anyone not named Walker. The spacing was horrible and they were jacking up shots with no one in position for a rebound. With no one willing to step up, it once again turned into a one man show and Walker saved the day.

Kemba started out slow missing a few shots, but slowly turned his game around and sank a couple of jumpers and drove to the lane. He is on such an incredible clip right now and even though he is the focus of everyone’s defense, he is getting to where he wants to go. The only knock against him is that his man is scoring on him with back door cuts or wide open jumpers. But that is a nitpicking since he is shouldering the entire offensive load. He was simply dynamic.

When Oriakhi went out with two fouls, the team found out that they have no one to hold down the paint. New Hampshire out rebounded them and was able to pull away on multiple looks at the rim. Alex had a much better showing in the second half, but he wasn’t as strong with the ball as he was in Maui. He wasn’t getting the rebounds that bounced ten feet and out. Offensively he struggled other then some put backs. He needs to relax when he gets the ball in the post and not rush shots. And the free throw line continues to frustrate him.

Olander had a tough night. He was late several times on help defense and didn’t rebound well, especially when Oriakhi had two fouls. He had some touches in the paint and showed some post moves, but seemed to linger in the paint to long. Okwandu had a couple of nice blocks but had a horrible hook shot and had some turnovers. For some reason Calhoun doesn’t give him any minutes in the second half of ballgames.

Smith did block a ton of shots, but this team needs his rebounding more and he didn’t respond. He also struggled offensively and needs to find a way to either free up his jumper which he has shown that he can hit or find a way to get to the rim. He did neither. Coombs-McDaniel started out strong with a lay-up, rebound and block, but then clanked everything else. He also didn't find ways to get to the line or rebound. Giffey also struggled. He missed every shot he took and had a travel. He did some good things. He had a nice steal and rebound which he was fouled but only made two of four from the line and needs to do better.

Napier is flashy and does free up Walker, but he gambles too much defensively and puts a lot of pressure on the defense. He also forces shots and needs to take his shots in the flow of the game. He is playing the Rondo defense and letting his man by him and swatting at the ball, which isn't good. Lamb is struggling, made some plays in the first half, but didn’t do anything late. He needs to find his role and how to get himself involved in the offense. He just doesn't look like a two guard. Beverly played better then he had previously and didn't force the action, but he did have a few costly turnovers. He is a perfect foil to Napier's game right now.

This game was to be expected from such a young team. Any type of over confidence and relaxation, even against New Hampshire's talent, can get you beat. This team is still a work in progress with Calhoun trying to figure out the right combination, especially on the wings. They are also going to need rebounders other then Oriakhi. Either Olander, Okwandu, Smith, Coombs-McDaniel, and Giffey need to step up and help shoulder some of the rebounding load and they aren’t getting it done. Hopefully this game woke them up and they can put the sun screen away and get down to business, because they look like the team that was heading into the Maui Invitational and not the one that left.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Unexpected


This is why college basketball is so exciting. You just don’t know what you are going to get each and every year. Last year UConn had high expectations with a team full of experience and athleticism to only see them fall into mediocrity. Then this team that is full of unknown and unheralded freshmen, inconsistent sophomores, seldom used seniors and one known offensive junior and they come out and shock the world, beating the number two and ninth ranked teams in the nation in back-to-back games. They did it on the defensive end. Depriving Kentucky of fast break and easy baskets, forcing the Wild Cats to earn every point. It is so amazing to see the maturity of this team offensively in the past three games. Against Wichita it was a one man show with Kemba taking it to the rim, against Michigan State it was Kemba and Oriakhi playing a high low game, and against Kentucky it was a well rounded effort with Napier, Giffey, and Coombs-McDaniel helping out Kemba and Oriakhi.

Walker didn’t need to shoulder as much of the offensive load but was still as effective. He once again was consistent from deep and mid-range which opened up driving lanes. He also had much better court vision and found easy baskets for others. It will be necessary for him to continue to find others because teams are going to double him every time he has the ball in his hands and that is why it is great to have Napier with the ball and have Walker run through screens for the ball. He dominated pure and simple and the only person to slow him down was himself with two early fouls against Wichita State.

Napier is so important to this team with his ball handling and his defense. His offense is still a work in progress and takes at least two bad shots a game to only make up for it with a great one. He needs to take the ball to the rim more because he is a great free throw shooter and has the blazing speed to get there multiple times a game. Beverly was not playing within himself and got into trouble with by going at a faster tempo then he can handle. He did do a good job on the boards, but he is trying to hard and needs to play his game. Lamb started bringing the ball up early but doesn’t look comfortable with the dribble. He is still trying to find his role. He hasn’t shown that he can create his own shot off the dribble and needs to find ways to open his shooting hand and take a few jumpers in rhythm. He did rebound well though but needs to find ways to contribute in other ways.

Early in the year, Oriakhi struggled and it looked like the front court would be in flux throughout the year, but he has turned his game around in a short amount of time. He is battling hard on the boards, especially offensively and is getting touches on the post and in the paint area, then executing there. He has shown the ability to knock down free throws early in the year but is struggling now. There is still so much more that he can do and the sky is the limit as to his ceiling as a player. Olander had a tough assignment defensively and struggled. He had an open jumper then missed and also had a terrible foul on a made three pointer. Okwandu made a nice high-low pass but had a hard time playing against a quicker and a more athletic team and found himself riding the pine.

Giffey had a great game. He moved well without the basketball and found the opening in the defense, scoring several easy lay-ups. Finally his three pointers began to fall and that gave him more confidence. Soon he made a nice step back jumper and began driving the ball to the basket. It was his best performance of the year. It was good to see a three pointer drop for Coombs-McDaniel. It looked like a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders. But the difference for him was that he wasn’t settling for jumpers and took the ball to the rim, scoring on several lay-ups. He needs to carry over this performance to the next game. Smith also had a horrible game and struggled against a tough and athletic front court. He didn’t rebound and also had a terrible foul on a missed three pointer.

Calhoun has found the right combination of Walker, Napier, Oriakhi, Giffey, and a mixture of Smith, Olander, or Coombs-McDaniel at the small forward position. They are gelling well together and are finally running sets where the ball gets passed three or more times. The defense is already better then last year and they are only going to get better with more confidence. They’ve got two solid notches on their resumes now and they’ll be ranked, but this team can’t let it get them over-confident. Kemba Walker knows that a fast start will not get them to where they want to go. They still need to solve the small forward position and develop a post game, but overall this team is light years ahead of where anyone expected them to be. And expecting the unexpected is what makes this game so beautiful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On Notice


Who saw this one coming? UConn struggled to sustain offense and was beaten badly in the paint against Wichita State and then they come out and play a perfect game against the second ranked team in the country. They weren’t just sitting around and watching Kemba Walker take the ball to the basket on every play. They rotated the basketball, the big men all had post shots, pounded the glass, and had a ton of second chance points. Everyone played great defense and contributed on the boards. In the end, UConn put everyone on notice that this team is legit and led by an All-American superstar.

One game is an anomaly but the tear that Walker is on and against good teams is a major statement. By adding the outside and mid-ranged shot to his game, it has elevated his game into elite status. His whole arsenal was on display, blazing fast breaks, the 3-ball, fade away jumpers, knocking down shots from the line, and getting others involved which he didn’t do against Wichita State. He played his heart out, but he needs to have others step up to shoulder some of the offense because he looked tired by the end of the game.

Napier had a numerous poor shots, missing a bunch of three pointers before sinking one at the end of the first half. He is a great defender but tends to hand check and gamble. Offensively, he has such a great first step but doesn’t drive to the basket as much as he should, relying heavily on his jumper. Lamb had a tough game. He doesn’t look like a shooting guard and plays more like a small forward. He needs to show that he can create a shot off the dribble. Beverly didn’t do much and when Calhoun shortened his bench Lamb and Beverly minutes were limited.

Oriakhi had his best game of the year, pounding the glass and devouring offensive rebounds. He played with energy and was strong with the ball. The only downside to his game was at the line. He has shown in the past that he can be consistent from the charity stripe and needs to find his confidence again. It was good to see him demand the ball in the post and take some shots, even though they were rushed. This team needs him to take shots at the post to take pressure off the perimeter.

Olander and Okwandu both rode the pine for much of the game when Calhoun shortened his bench. Olander did have a nice post move and a rebound, but struggled defensively and on the boards. Okwandu had a nice block but missed his free throws and had a bad hook shot.

The small forwards had a much better showing in this game. Smith did a better job on the boards and had a monster block. He also showed that he can drain the outside shot with consistency, hitting a three in his last three games. Coombs-McDaniel had a great dunk but needs to do more on the boards. He is also in a dreadful shooting slump and needs to find a way to get to the line to get a feel for the ball going into the basket. Giffey is a great defender. He has good length and quick feet, but it was his rebounding that was most impressive in this game.

While the news will state how great Walker is and he deserves all the accolades, it was solid defense, tough rebounding, and contributions from Oriakhi and the freshmen that allowed UConn to pull off the upset. This was a total team effort. And having Kemba Walker playing at such an incredible level doesn’t hurt either. They put the NCAA on notice because these dogs can bite.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One Man Show


It wasn’t how Calhoun had drawn it up. Kemba Walker sitting for almost the whole first half. It could’ve been ugly but the freshmen held their own and took a lead on a Smith three pointer at the buzzer. There were some troubling signs though. Wichita dominated the paint area, were winning the loose balls, and sinking threes that ballooned the lead. But UConn had Kemba Walker and he took over. Sure UConn benefited from some bad calls, but the aggressiveness made the referees have to make calls and some went the Huskies way.

Walker is having a sensational start to his season. The only real knock on his game was that he was too aggressive defensively in the first half. He needs to know that he can’t pick up those type of fouls. His jumper wasn’t falling early and he started driving to the basket, feasting at the line. He took over late and after missing a three pointer, he then made 6 points at the line, hit a three pointer, had a steal, got fouled, made two more free throws on a questionable call, and then sank two more jumpers. That’s stepping up down the stretch and they needed every single point.

Napier played solid defense getting some steals, but was a bit too aggressive, fouling twenty feet from the basket. When the team needed someone to step up when Kemba was in foul trouble, Napier took over. He displayed the ability to get to the lane and to the line. He did take a couple of bad jumpers and needs to take more shots in rhythm. Beverly handled the press well, had a nice assist, made his free throws, and had an offensive board, but he isn’t much of a factor offensively and didn’t look aggressive out there. Lamb also stepped up in the first half. He rebounded great, had a beautiful bank shot, and a steal, but wasn’t as much of a factor in the second half especially on the boards.

The front court played horrible. There was no semblance of position rebounding and it turned into a tip drill for every board. Oriakhi did have a nice post move and scored on a hook, but he didn’t have any consistent offense. On defense he was getting beat on back screens and was out of position, giving Wichita easy looks and put-backs. While he did have a horrible pass that gave up a dunk, he did step up and seal the game with a free throw. Overall though, UConn needs more from him. Olander also had a tough game and wasn’t effective rebounding. He took an ill-advised three pointer that had him riding the pine. Okwandu started the game and blocked a shot, got to the line, and had a steal, but didn’t have an impact in the second half. Calhoun isn't giving him much minutes.

The small forward position is still finding its way and struggled. Smith was UConn’s best outside threat sinking a pair, but other then that he had a tough game. He wasn’t effective on the boards and gave up a free throw rebound. He needs to do much better on the boards. Coombs-McDaniel showed that he wasn’t strictly a jump shooter and had a nifty lay-up. He played solid defense and had a block, but he also didn’t do much in the second half. Giffey had a lay-up, snagged an offensive board, and made half of his free throws.

What happened to the consistent outside jumpers, the flawless free throw shooting, and ball movement that UConn showed in the preseason? There is too much dribbling to this offense and little to none ball movement. While Kemba Walker is a great option, it is starting to look like the UConn of last year where everyone stepped aside and let Dyson take the ball to the rack and everyone knows how that story ended. This team is going to need a more well rounded effort especially from the front court and small forwards against an elite team in Michigan State. If they don’t then its going to be a long night.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Baby Steps


It didn’t look good early on. Vermont was getting open shots and knocking everything down. The help defense was rotating late and giving up rebounds. The offense was stagnant, other then Walker, and there was too much dribbling and not enough sharing of the basketball. But that all changed in the second half and it started with the defense, creating multiple stops, getting to the line, pounding the glass, and causing turnovers which lead to easy points.

If there was any doubt that Kemba Walker is one of the elite point guards in the country then this game has shattered it. He was simply amazing. He has not only added a deep threat to his game, but his ability to play under control at his blazing speed is the most impressive improvement to his game. His whole arsenal was on display from the crossover to the spinning jumper. It was all clicking. He is going to have to carry the load offensively while the freshmen figure out their roles. If he can be close to as effective as he was today, then this team will be special.

Napier’s defense was what sparked UConn’s run that put them ahead for good. He was giving Vermont’s guards all types of problems. His outside shooting wasn’t there but he showed that he can affect the game in other ways. He has proven to be the second best guard on the team and is eating into Beverly’s minutes. Donnell had a good first half and did a great job in helping on the boards, but he also had a horrible behind the back pass that lead to a turnover. He needs to be that solid guard off the bench that can play defense, help on the boards and handle the rock. Smith had a nice game, hitting the outside shot with consistency which is a great sign. He needs to contribute more on the boards and close out better on defense, but overall he had a good night.

The frontcourt had a tough time defending the post without fouling. This could become a problem against bigger foes because of their lack of depth. Oriakhi had another effective game. He didn’t rebound as well as he did in the Stony Brook game and gave up some offensive boards. He blocked a ton of shots and had a bunch of put-backs, and has emerged as the second leader on the court for this team. Olander had an uneven game. He blocked shots, pulled down some boards, got put-backs, steals, deflections, and made hustle plays on the floor, but then would be out of position on rebounds, and had multiple passes go right through his hands. Okwandu is not getting the minutes he needs to get better. He wasn’t playing well, forcing a turnaround jumper and being late on defense that had him yanked from the game. Calhoun is not letting him play through his mistakes more then the other players.

The small forward position is the enigma on this team. Lamb, Giffey, and Coombs-McDaniel all had tough nights offensively. They did contribute on the boards in the second half but need to crash the boards and help out more in that department. Coombs-McDaniel has not found a way to contribute and Lamb has taken advantage, garnering more minutes. It was good to see a jumper go down for Giffey and he plays the best defense of the three, but they all need to step up more.

While it was the Kemba Walker show tonight, this game proved that he couldn’t do it alone. It wasn’t until Napier, Smith, and Oriakhi chipped in that they started to pull away from Vermont. They still don’t have a post presence, the small forward position is still in flux, and the rebounding is disconcerting, but then again they have Kemba Walker and that solves a lot of problems. Calhoun has done a great job of inching this team forward, ratcheting up the opposition’s talent game by game, building up their confidence. The next step is a road game, be it a neutral site. Let’s see if this team is ready to take that next step.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

No Baseline


It wasn’t pretty, buckets weren’t dropping like it has in the past two games and Stony Brook was knocking down threes, keeping themselves in the game early. It looked like it was going to be one of those underachieving performances, but UConn settled down and won this game on the defensive side of the ball, denying Stony Brook open looks on the perimeter. It is a great sign to see that one side of the ball wasn’t affecting the other, especially for such a young team. The rebounding was exceptional and everyone helped chip in and protect those long rebounds that they weren't getting in the preseason.

Walker struggled offensively but he was active. He had open jumpers and lay-ups that rolled off the rim. They’ll eventually drop for him, but he remained aggressive, which is what he needs to do. The team is so dependent on his energy and the tempo that he sets, that even if he is missing, it causes the defensive breakdowns which opens up easy put-backs and lay-ups.

Oriakhi was a beast. This is what he’ll need to do all year. He won’t have as big of an impact when he plays comparable talent, but his activity under the basket, from rebounds, blocks, put-backs, to deflections is what he needs to bring to every game. He needs to get the ball on the post more though. The team is too perimeter focused now and needs Oriakhi to post up and demand the ball. Okwandu didn’t play much and it wasn’t due to his play on the court. He made plays while he was out there from a nice hook shot to some hustle offensive boards. He needs more minutes in games like these to get more confidence.

Beverly had a bad first half but turned it around in the second. It was great to see him sink a 3-ball and it seemed to inject some confidence in him because from then on he had multiple rebounds, a steal, and a highlight stop-and-go lay-up. Lamb couldn’t buy a basket, missing from deep and mid-range, but he made impacts in other areas especially on defense. He had a spectacular steal then dunk and a great block on the perimeter. This inconsistency is expected from some of the young players especially on offense. Napier has had the most impact of the freshmen and has done it in every game so far. While he did have a horrible decision in a 3-ball that luckily banked in, he also showed the ability to hit the open three when it was a good shot. His speed and hustle compliments Walker's game. He needs to use his speed to get in the lanes more though and not rely on the perimeter shot.

Giffey had a bad game and didn’t get into any flow of the game offensively. He played solid defense and kept Stony Brook's streaky perimeter shooters in check in the second half. Olander didn’t play much and didn’t have much of an impact other then an offensive board and a lay-up. Smith did a better job on the boards, but couldn’t muster much on the offensive other then some put-backs. He was active on defense though and wasn’t afraid to crash the boards which is a great sign. It was great to see a 3-ball drop for Coombs-McDaniel, though he still is relying on his jumper too much. He did make a much more consorted effort on the glass and found points on put-backs. If he wants to beat out the freshmen, then he needs to be that third rebounder.

It is strange to see a UConn team jacking up threes, but it is working, even if they weren’t dropping. They found ways to produce points on put-backs, at the line, and second chance opportunities. There just isn’t a baseline to tell if this team is a poor, good, or great outside shooting team, but Calhoun’s hands are tied. He just doesn’t have the frontcourt that can create their own shot off the dribble. For now this team will take a ton of threes, attack in transition, get to the line, and play solid defense. It has worked so far, but it is awfully strange to watch.

 

Thursday, November 11, 2010